2020? You suck. But there was no way we were letting you get in the way of our creativity.

The ‘Virtual Market’ – a term which has suddenly become a huge part of any creative’s vocabulary, either as a seller; an organiser; a shopper or even just an inspiration gatherer.

So what is one? How does it work? And is this going to become the new normal for creative events?

We’ve spoken to heaps of talented individuals and organisations who have been running and taking part in these events – whether that be simply due to the lack of alternatives in recent times, or an online event being the game plan all along!

All throughout October, we are publishing posts looking into this newly common concept, and why is has taken the creative world by storm.

A virtual event is a fab online opportunity for artists, designers, makers and crafters to show off their talents, and to sell their wares over the internet. Most of the time, the idea is to create an environment which is similar to that of an actual fair or market, but instead the browsing is happening in your pjs, in the comfort of your own home (but I suppose this year we didn’t have much in the way of alternative options…).

The virtual market really came in to its own in 2020, not wanting to state the obvious, but the world turned upside down (Hamilton? Anyone? No?) and we didn’t have the option to put on events, or sell face-to-face, or to mooch around craft fairs and galleries. This virtual concept bridged this gap, and while we baked banana bread (for me: mostly burnt banana bread and ate biscuits); bought enough pasta and baked beans to feed the masses; and forced a smile on a cringe Zoom quiz, we could also get our crafty fix by attending these events online.

Summer is usually prime market-mooching season, so I don’t know about you, but I was over the moon to have another option. Creatives continued to be their amazing, inspiring selves by moving the markets online to allow inspo hunters like myself to ‘keep calm and carry on’ (bleuh sorry).

So, the good stuff:

  • PJs!
    Now I’ve already mentioned this, so it is clearly a big deal for me personally… but I am a big lover of lounge-wear, and I ADORE the idea of logging into a virtual market on the sofa on a Saturday morning, big ol’ coffee in hand, and scrolling through beautiful hand made pieces for sale. I mean, I’m sure Kirsty Allsopp might have something to say about me rocking up to the Handmade Fair in my old Disney pyjamas and no bra.
  • Pandemic Entertainment
    So not to state the obvious, but virtual markets and online creative events allowed an outlet for makers and shoppers alike, while we were unable to do it in person during lockdown. Imagine how much worse it could have been without this wonderful online community, supporting each other through shares and comments, and taking part in all kinds of challenges and events. These helped towards small creative businesses staying afloat, and allowed fans to keep hold of what little sanity they still had left, by allowing them to get their small-business shopping fix.
  • A Broader Audience
    If you’re running a creative event in, say Manchester for example, then you’ve got the people living there to offer to. If it is a big enough deal, some people may travel a little way to get to you, but it is still limiting on the practicalities of people getting there. If the event is moved online however, people can tune in from Dakota and still have the same experience as you would shopping from Kent.
    This also poses the idea of accessibility – if people are prevented from attending in-person events due to health problems (mental or physical), this is much less of a problem for most, if you can tune in from your phone.
    From a maker point of view, this is great in terms of the reach that your business will gain through these events. But also as a shopper and browser, you will be exposed to sellers that you may never have found by attending only local fairs and markets.

And the not-so-good stuff:

  • Face-to-face Customer Contact
    If you are a small business owner with a large personality, you may pride yourself on your ability to chat to anyone about anything, and this will naturally drive sales. This would absolutely be more difficult to do through online platforms, and therefore may be problematic in terms of how much you are actually selling. However – this works both ways. A more introverted creative could definitely benefit from the selling process moving online.
  • ‘Technophobes’
    I absolutely come under this category – I cannot explain why, but technology just freaks. me. out. A lack of technical knowledge or even just confidence on the web (do we still call it the web??), could prove to be a big spanner in the works if moving an event online.
  • I Miss Mooching
    There is nothing like coming home after attending an event, exhausted (but absolutely buzzing about all of your purchases and exciting conversations you have had), and nursing your poor tired feet as a result of that weird, slow shuffle you do at the markets. Slowly browsing the stalls, stopping every couple of metres to point out something to a friend, or to try and regain some sort of sense of direction. The trouble with these fab online events, is that they are just too efficient, and easy to navigate! I like going around the stands 3 times, because I can’t find the toilets, or the seller who I told “I’ll do a loop then come back later!”.
    The idea of ‘mooching’ also makes me think of all of those lovely venues, who are losing out on the bookings and exposure through creative fairs. I love discovering interesting buildings and architecture by just glancing up while browsing. It makes my living room feel a little less special in comparison.

So what do you reckon, are virtual markets going to become a permanent feature of the creative industry? I sure hope so.

Have you attended any creative virtual events this year? What did you think? Let us know!

Next week, we’re going to be talking through some conversations we have had with a few lovely people and organisations who have been running online creative events. We can’t wait to share it with you!
If you have made it this far thank you, and we’ll see you next Friday!



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